Canadian typical food

Geographic setting and environment

Canada is the second largest country in the world (after Russia), and is the largest country in North America. The eastern provinces, known as the Maritimes, are separated from the rest of the country by low mountain ranges. Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island are island provinces in the Atlantic Ocean.

Along the border with the United States in central Canada is a fertile plain bounded by the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, and Hudson Bay. Also along the border with the United States, further west, there are farms and ranches. Stretching across western Alberta to the Pacific Ocean is the northern portion of the Rocky Mountain range. Mount Logan, at 5,915 meters, the highest peak in Canada, is near the border with Alaska. The climate varies throughout the vast Canadian territory. The West Coast receives about 60-120 inches (150-300 centimeters) of rain each year; the central part of the country receives less than 20 inches (50 centimeters), and the maritime provinces 45-60 inches (115-150 centimeters). In British Columbia, there are 252 rainy days a year,

History and food

France and England fought over who would colonize Canada’s territory in the late 1400s. English explorer John Cabot arrived in Newfoundland in 1497. Some 40 years later, in 1534, Jacques Cartier began his exploration of Canada on behalf of France. By the early 17th century, there were permanent French colonies, and in 1663, New France was established as a territory of France. French fur traders competed with traders from the Hudson’s Bay Company, run by British traders. Wars in North America, known as the French and Indian Wars, were fought in the 18th century. The 1763 Treaty of Paris ended the armed struggle and established British rule over all of the territory formerly called New France.

In 1846 the dispute over the western part of the border between the United States and Canada was settled and the border was fixed at latitude 49° North. This border has been undisputed ever since.

Canadian food and other customs still bear traces of colonial influences from England and France. Canadians speak English, except in Quebec, where the language is French, reflecting the influence of French settlers. But there are also other regional differences in food and customs.

The food in the eastern provinces of Canada shows signs of English heritage, except in Quebec where the influence is French. In Canada’s western provinces, the cuisine reflects explorers and settlers, who, like their neighbors to the south in the United States, made simple, hearty meals from whatever ingredients were available. In northern Canada, in the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut, the diet is limited by the short growing season, dominated by preserved food ingredients, and influenced by the native Inuit diet. And along British Columbia’s west coast, immigrants from Asian nations influence food and cultural practices. In Vancouver to the west and Toronto to the east (and many other places in Canada),

Canadian food

Canadians’ favorite foods vary slightly from region to region, and are heavily influenced by their family heritage, especially in relation to holiday celebrations. Along the Atlantic coast, seafood and dishes derived from English traditions (except in Quebec) are common. In Quebec, favorite foods come from the area’s French heritage. Across Canada, maple syrup and products are popular, reflecting the importance of the maple tree, whose leaf adorns the Canadian flag. Many families enjoy an early spring visit to a maple sugar “shack,” the special rustic building where the sap from maple trees is boiled in a large open pot to make maple syrup.

Later in the spring, many people from eastern Canada visit a forested area to harvest fiddleheads. Fiddleheads, so called because they look like the rolled-up end of a fiddle, are the tasty new shoots of woodland ferns, picked before they develop into large lacy fronds. They are a brittle spring specialty, usually available for a few weeks in the spring. Grocery stores in Canada may have frozen fiddleheads along with other frozen vegetables.

Sautéed fiddleheads 8portions


  • A group of plover heads
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Trim the fiddle heads so the stem end is about 2 inches long. Rub the dried brown scales off the fiddleheads and rinse well.
  2. Fill a saucepan with cold water and submerge the fiddleheads in the water to rinse off any grit.
  3. Remove the fiddleheads from the saucepan, change the water, and repeat the soaking. Rinse the fiddleheads under running water to remove any remaining grit.
  4. Rinse and dry the pan. Measure the oil and butter into it and heat it until the butter melts.
  5. Add the fiddleheads and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes. The fiddleheads will be bright green and crisp.

Sautéed fiddleheads

Canadian Bacon with Maple Glaze

Serve 6 for lunch or dinner, or 15-20 as an appetizer.


  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • ¾ cups maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 pound (approximately) Canadian bacon


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
  2. Combine the vinegar, maple syrup, and brown sugar in a bowl. Lay aside.
  3. Cut the Canadian bacon into slices about ½-inch thick. Place the slices in a casserole dish or baking dish, and spoon the maple syrup mixture over the slices.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. (To serve as a snack, cut slices into bite-size pieces and serve with toothpicks.)

Canadian Bacon with Maple Glaze

Western Canadians enjoy the produce of the great ranches and farms in that part of the country. Barbecue food, meat, and corn dishes such as sweet corn pancakes are popular. Berries, such as blueberries and saskatoon berries, are popular accompaniments to pancakes, waffles, and are often made into syrups, jams, and preserves.

sweet corn pancakes 4-6portions


  • 6 eggs, separated (Note: To separate the eggs, crack the egg and let just the white fall into a bowl, keeping the yolk in one of the shell halves. Skim the yolk back and forth between the two halves shell, being careful not to break it, until all the white has fallen into the bowl (put the yolk in a separate bowl).
  • ¼ cup half and half
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • ⅓ cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup corn (can be fresh or frozen corn)
  • Vegetable oil to grease the pan


  1. Beat egg whites until soft peaks when beaters are raised.
  2. In another bowl, combine the egg yolks, half and half, and sour cream.
  3. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture. Add the beaten egg whites, using a gentle motion to mix them into the yolk mixture.
  4. Add the corn and stir gently. Pour a small amount of oil into a nonstick skillet and heat over medium heat. Drop the batter, about a tablespoon at a time, into the pan for each pancake and cook until golden brown on each side.

sweet corn pancakes

While some know Canada for its beers (such as Molsons and Labatts), favorite non-alcoholic beverages in Canada are spruce beer (made from spruce trees, a specialty of eastern Canada) and apple and cherry ciders.

Food for religious and festive celebrations

Canadian Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the second Monday in October. A typical menu for Thanksgiving Day is similar to that served in the neighboring country to the south, the United States.


  • Borscht
  • Roast Turkey with Cornbread Stuffing
  • The Cranapple Seasoning
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Burnished Pumpkin Wedges
  • Pumpkin cake

Burns Night is celebrated on January 25 to commemorate the birthday of poet Robert Burns (1759-96). It is especially meaningful to people of Scottish descent around the world, and Scottish Canadians are no exception. On Burns Night, the menu includes Scottish favorites like haggis, cockaleekie soup (chicken-based leek soup) and Dundee Pie (a rich fruitcake).

canada day cake 24portions


  • 1 white or yellow cake mix
  • 1 container of white icing
  • 1 quarter of strawberries
  • Canada flag image


  1. Prepare cake according to package directions. Bake in a 9-by-13-inch pan. Let the cake cool down.
  2. Frosted cake with white icing. Using a knife or spatula, make the icing surface as smooth as possible. (It may help to dip the knife or spatula in a glass of water.
  3. Cut the strawberries and arrange them in rows on the left and right edges of the cake to represent the stripes on the edges of the Canadian maple leaf flag.
  4. Referring to the flag image, arrange the strawberry slices in the center of the cake to represent the Maple Leaf.

canada day cake

On Canada Day (July 1), Canadians celebrate with picnics and fireworks (similar to the 4th of July in the United States). The dishes served are typical of casual dining such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and the tables feature the patriotic color scheme of Canada’s red and white maple leaf flag.

A common delicacy served throughout Canada is the Nanaimo Bar. Nanaimo bars, a layered sweet bar cookie, are believed to have originated in the 1950s in the Vancouver area, when a recipe was published in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. Since then, many variations of the original recipe have been developed. The recipe looks more complicated than it is due to the three separate layers.

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars have three layers.


Ingredients for the bottom layer

  • ½ cup of butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (packaged graham cracker crumbs can be used)
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Ingredients for the middle layer

  • ¼ cup of butter
  • 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (available in Canada, but not in the US; instant vanilla pudding powder may be substituted)
  • 3 tablespoons of milk

Ingredients for the top layer

  • 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon butter


  1. Make the bottom layer: Grease a 9-inch-square cake pan.
  2. Combine ½ cup butter, sugar, cocoa, egg, and vanilla in a heavy sauce pan. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.
  3. Add the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and chopped walnuts, stirring to combine. Press mixture into greased skillet.
  4. Make a middle layer: Beat together ¼ cup butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla custard or pudding mix, and milk, until creamy.
  5. Spread over graham cracker crust in cake pan. Refrigerate bars until firm, at least 1 hour.
  6. Prepare the coverage: Melt the semisweet chocolate and a tablespoon of butter. Drizzle over the chilled bars. Return to the fridge to chill until firm (at least 1 hour).
  7. Cut into squares and serve.

Nanaimo Bars

Mealtime customs

Most Canadians eat three meals a day, with breakfast including cold cereals, pastries, fruit juices, and hot beverages such as coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Around noon, Canadians can enjoy a sandwich or soup; students may bring a ham and cheese sandwich, chips or pretzels, and fruit for a midday meal during the school lunch break.
For dinner, depending on where they live, Canadians can have seafood (in West Coast or Maritime East Coast provinces), beef (in Western Canada, especially Alberta), or chicken or pork. Many Canadians enjoy the sauce, which is often served with potatoes prepared in many different ways. A traditional Newfoundland dish, Fish and Brewis features ingredients that can be stored through the long winter months. Desserts with maple syrup, such as maple syrup upside down cake or a simple maple sundae, are very popular.

maple sundae 1portion


  • 3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • chopped walnuts (optional)
  • whipped topping (optional)


  1. Put the vanilla ice cream in the bowls.
  2. Drizzle about 3 tablespoons of maple syrup over the ice cream.
  3. Top with chopped pecans and whipped topping (if desired), and serve immediately.

maple sundae

Fish and Brewis (fish and stale bread) 6-8portions


  • 2 pounds of cod
  • 6 loaves of stale bread (not available in the US; see Source of Special Ingredients)
  • 1 cup of salt pork


  1. Put the cod in a saucepan, cover with water and let soak overnight. Place the stale bread in another pan, cover it with water and let it soak overnight.
  2. Make the fish: Drain the cod and return to the saucepan. Fill the saucepan with fresh water, heat it over low heat and cook it covered for 20 minutes. Drain, shred the fish into serving-sized pieces, and arrange with stale bread (called brewis) on a serving tray.
  3. Prepare brewis (stale bread): Do not drain stale bread. Heat over medium-low heat until the water simmers. Cook over low heat, covered, for about 15 minutes. Drain and place the cooked stale bread, known as brewis, on a serving tray with fish. Place the dish, covered, in the oven on the lowest setting to keep warm.
  4. Make scrunchions: Cut the salt pork into small cubes and sauté them in a skillet until golden brown.
  5. Serve the fish and concoction, topped with the rolls.

Fish and Brewis (fish and stale bread)

Upside Down Maple Syrup Cake 16portions


  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 3 spoonfuls of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg
  • ½ cup of milk
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Vanilla ice cream or whipped topping as a side (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)
  2. Measure the butter, sugar and egg into a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until creamy.
  3. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon (or nutmeg). Add the dry ingredients and milk, little by little and alternating between the two, to the creamy butter mixture. Stir until well mixed.
  4. Measure syrup into a small saucepan. Heat syrup to boiling, and pour into generously buttered 8-inch square pan. If using chopped walnuts, add them to the hot syrup.
  5. Scoop the dough into four large balls and drop them into the hot maple syrup. Using two forks, stretch the dough around the edges of the balls until the dough forms a large dough. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 30 minutes.
  6. Serve hot, with ice cream or whipped cream (if desired).

Upside Down Maple Syrup Cake

Politics, economics and nutrition

Only about 5 percent of Canada’s land is considered arable (capable of growing crops), and agriculture contributes about 2 percent to the country’s gross domestic product. The trend is towards larger farms. Canadian farms produce grains such as wheat, barley, corn, and oats. Canada ranks third in the world for grain exports. Canadian farmers and ranchers also raise cattle for export, especially in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

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